I hope you did the exercise I gave you in December to complete 2013 and that you have a clean slate on which to plan 2014. If not, please go back and read the last post and complete the exercise. It will make a huge difference if you do.
There’s a great story in Alice in Wonderland. Alice is going down the yellow brick road when she comes to an intersection. Sitting at the intersection is the Cheshire cat. Alice asks: “which way?” The cat responds: “where are you going?” Alice says: “I don’t know.” Whereupon the cat says: “Well then, it doesn’t matter!”
So first, planning has to start with clarity about where you are going. What I’m pointing to is your vision. In a business context, this means what you’re committed to creating. Not just next year or the year after or even the year after. It’s the big picture. Who are you? Where are you going? What are the fundamental commitments in building your organization? What would you have it look like some day, when all of your hopes and dreams become a reality?
On an individual basis, what is your life about, really? Where are you going? What are you committed to? What do you want to leave behind when you’re all done?
There are a whole series of questions like these in Chapter 19 of Unshackled Leadership. You might want to consider getting a copy before you go too far with your planning.
Why is it so important to start with the big picture? Several reasons.
First, when the context for all that you do is your vision for the future and that vision is big, clear, inspiring and challenging, it creates excitement and enthusiasm for you and everyone else in your organization. And, if you remember the discussion of cause and effect in previous blog posts, you know that a mood of passion, excitement and enthusiasm has you attract into your life and your company more things to be passionate, excited and enthused about!
Second, when all you do is look at what you accomplished in the past and set some goals for things you want to accomplish in the future, you unwittingly design a future that is an extension of the past! And then you wonder why you’re not inspired or motivated.
Third, for those of you that are long time readers, you know we live in a fundamentally fear-based, scarcity-based world. If you’re not standing firmly in your vision for the future of your company or your life, it is so easy to get sucked into fear-based, scarcity-based thinking. And all that does is attract to you scarcity and things to be fearful of. And isn’t that what’s going on right now? Really?
I worked with a client some time ago which so clearly demonstrates what I’m talking about. Great company, great people, great products and services, but not going anywhere very fast and not being real profitable.
Each year, in their business planning process, they did the conventional. They looked at what they had done in the past, looked at the opportunities on the table at the moment, attempted to project what they felt they could predict in the future, and set some goals. Sound familiar?
What wasn’t apparent was how much their thinking was fear and scarcity based. And, each day was more of the same, business as usual. We did a retreat early in the year with the management team and went through the Designing the Future process outlined in Chapter 19 of Unshackled Leadership. What emerged was not only a vision for the future, but a clearly identified mission statement and clarity about the culture they were committed to creating. Standing in the vision, which was truly exciting, a set of objectives to be achieved within 5 years were created. Those objectives included almost tripling the company in 5 years, as well as dramatically improving the level of profitability.
By the time this vision was filtered throughout the company, what was unimaginable earlier in the year not only became the total commitment of everyone in the company, but it became the prevalent conversation that they would blow past the objectives well before then. And the whole fear-based, scarcity-based way of thinking is now long gone. Plus, they had the best year ever!
In planning for next year, what happened in the past is really irrelevant. What happened in the past was a reflection of your thinking in the past. If you want to have a different future, you need to think differently. And creating from your vision is a great place to start that process.
Once your vision is in place, and looking from there, the first question to ask yourself is “what’s missing?” Not what’s wrong, not what’s bad, not what isn’t working, just what’s missing? Standing in your vision, you’ll see lots of things missing. Just make a list.
When that’s done, ask the next question: “what’s possible?” What’s possible is very different from what you can predict. The later looks to the past, the former looks to the future. Again, just make a list of what’s possible.
Then, standing in your vision, seeing what’s missing and what’s possible, see what you’re willing to take on, what you’re willing to commit yourself to. Not from what you know, not from what you’ve done, not even from what you don’t know. Just looking to the future and seeing what calls to you, what inspires you, what would get you out of bed in the morning raring to go because you have work to do.
Create intentions, goals, projects, commitments, whatever words work for you. But whatever, have it be an expression of the future you are committed to, not some prediction based on what you’ve done in the past.
And then, let it all go, proceed with faith, trust and optimism, and let the Universe take you where it knows is best for you. The Universe is really on your side. The Universe wants you to have everything you want. That is the truth. Move boldly in the direction of your dreams. Bring your passion, your excitement, your gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness to life, and you will indeed have the best year ever!
If you’ve never done planning this way, and I suspect very few of you have, it can be a somewhat daunting task. Please give yourself the gift of a breakthrough year and give us a call. We’ll be happy to work with you to make this all simple, straightforward, exciting, and doable.